Vertical Hydroponics—Introduction Part II
Vertical hydroponic is a good growing method when you do not have enough ground surface or horizontal floor area. Why do we say it is a good method? We list some of its advantages below.
Advantages of Vertical Hydroponics
One huge consideration with vertical hydroponics is optimizing the limited space that you might have. Most gardeners nowadays—professionals or enthusiasts—often suffer from lack of floor space, and so vertical hydroponics has become the preferred choice for urban gardening. Vertical systems are excellent for fitting into corners of rooms or any other small indoor or outdoor spaces where they can be less intrusive while not using up valuable square footage. This has allowed maximum usage of small spaces and made it a viable option for growing crops in city homes, whether against an outdoor patio wall or inside a spare room. Vertical hydroponics is a godsend for people who don’t have access to much soil or ground space to grow things.
In addition, plant roots in hydroponic systems don’t spread out as much in their search for nutrients compared to growing them in soil, since the roots are suspended directly in nutrient-rich solution. As a result, it is possible to grow crops much closer together, saving space.
Lack of Soil
Hydroponics is being considered as an innovative alternative approach to the future of agriculture, since by using no soil, you can grow many varieties of produce in most places with very little arable land, dry/arid climates, or where climate change and destructive farming practices are causing soil erosion. Similarly, distant cities, islands or hotels can also grow their own fresh food hydroponically instead of resorting to costly imports. As for coastal places with a scarcity of fresh water, desalination technology is in progress so that people will be able to extract fresh water from the ocean for supplying hydroponic gardens as well as for agriculture in general.
Due to the controlled and soil-free environment, weeds, pests and plant diseases are minimized. As a result, the use of chemical fertilizers, fungicides and pesticides are drastically reduced—a big bonus for health and food safety—while the harvested crops may not even need to be washed in most cases.
Efficiency & Productivity
Hydroponic nutrients are derived from mineral salts, essentially the same as those found in soil, but more readily available. The difference is that the nature of soil-based minerals is slow release, whereas hydroponic minerals are fast release with fast uptake, and therefore result in optimal results & faster growth.
As mentioned earlier, when planted in soil, a plant’s roots spread out in search of nutrients, leading to a much larger root system than a hydroponic setup—wherein the nutrients are delivered directly to the root system in almost surgical quantities. This method ensures that plants receive exactly the right quantity of nutrition at the right times, allowing the plant to spend its energy producing useful foliage, stems, leaves, and fruit (instead of large root systems).
Vertical hydroponics, especially indoors, allows for better control of temperature, light, air composition, and pests. This results in maximized crop growth rates, quality and yield, in addition to being able to grow most crops year-round. Indoor vertical hydroponics farms can play an important role in filling the market gap, providing fresh produce in all seasons.
In addition, vertical hydroponics can reduce the overall weight of the upper layers by at least 30% compared to using soil as the growing medium for a vertical system—meaning that you can stack more layers on top of each other than you normally could.
Fresh produce can be made available locally with maximum ease, and sold in restaurants and farmers’ markets with minimal transport. This helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also reducing nutrient loss and produce damage.
In a properly constructed vertical hydroponics system, the water and nutrients inside the tube stay inside it without any spillage or leakage. Moreover, the water keeps getting recycled (in a closed-loop system) until it reaches the point of no use. This ensures optimal usage and minimal wastage. Hydroponic systems are therefore good for the environment, since the water is not being evaporated as readily or absorbed into the ground quickly while being recirculated, compared to a soil-based system. In fact, a recirculating hydroponic system can conserve up to 80% water and use up to 10 times less water compared to a standard garden bed. This offers a huge—and sustainable—advantage when water shortage is of great concern, especially since field-based agriculture is one of the greatest consumers of freshwater sources (up to 80% of ground and surface water in the U.S. itself).
To be continued…
Vertical Hydroponics—Introduction Part I
What happens if you love gardening and growing various kinds of plants, but do not have enough ground surface or horizontal floor area? The concept of vertical farming was developed as a solution to this problem. Imagine the way that tall skyscrapers can be built so sturdily, yet are able to reach up towards the sky while containing so many different rooms across multiple levels, and that will provide you with the basic working principle behind vertical farming. In other words, it is all about cultivating more by stacking multiple layers of planting surfaces.
What Is Vertical Hydroponics?
This basic concept of vertical farming can be easily applied towards what’s known as hydroponics—a way to grow plants without the use of any soil, wherein minerals and other nutrients are provided directly to the roots only via water in a systematic manner and in calculated quantities.
Hydroponic systems can be grown in a greenhouse using natural light, or more commonly in a vertical system using LED lights, to save space. The latter system is what’s known as Vertical Hydroponics—the setting up of a hydroponic farm, except in a vertical manner. Gravity plays a major role, since the nutrient-rich water is fed from the top of the system and flows down to the bottom, where it is collected.
This practice of soil-free vertical gardening traces its roots all the way back to Ancient history. The Babylonians had a similar idea when they built the Hanging Gardens along the Euphrates River in Babylonia around 600 BC—an Ancient Wonder which had flowers, shrubs and even trees growing in massive tiered gardens. Other records of hydroponics in ancient times include the floating farms created by the Aztecs around Tenochtitlan in Mexico in the 10th-11th century, as well as the explorer Marco Polo’s writings of the late 13th century, describing similar floating gardens during his travels to China.
Scientific experiments done to test plant growth using various cultures from water, soil and air were recorded from the year 1600 onwards by various chemists. The long search for the macro-nutrients essential for plant growth without soil culminated around 1860, when two German botanists, Julius von Sachs and Wilhelm Knop, were able to grow plants by totally immersing their roots in a water solution containing minerals of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, sulfur, and calcium, and delivered the first standard formula for the specific nutrient solutions dissolved in water to allow the growth of plants in it. This was the origin of “nutriculture”, a word that was changed in 1937 to “hydroponics”—combining two Greek words “Hydro” (water) and “Ponos” (labor).
Studies have shown that vertical hydroponics systems can aid in efficient water savings, up to 90 percent. The closed loop system prevents runoff into waterways, while growing indoors can reduce pests, diseases, and issues related to fickle weather. A vertical hydroponics system is efficient in multiple ways, has various advantages, and can be built, operated and maintained even at your home.
How Does a Vertical Hydroponic System Work?
There are two main vertical hydroponic system designs—Vertical Hydroponic Tower and Zig-Zag Vertical Hydroponic System. Due to their unique dynamics, both of these vertical designs use a closed, constant flow system called the Nutrient Film Technique (NFT), which involves having a constant thin stream of water flowing over the root system of the plants.
Vertical Hydroponic Tower
In a typical vertical hydroponic tower, a tube is connected to a small water reservoir at the bottom, wherein a hydroponic pump will assist in pumping the water to the top. From there, the natural assistance of gravity is used to bring water down in a controlled manner back to the reservoir, the process of which delivers the nutrients to the plant.
You can either use a single tube to deliver water to the top level or connect multiple channels to different layers for optimal delivery of water and nutrients. The plants are placed in net cups, typically angled at 45 degrees, to easily allow the water to flow through the roots.
Zig-Zag Vertical Hydroponic System
Some designs use multiple PVC pipes arranged on a trellis frame at diagonal angles (known as the zig-zag vertical system) instead of creating a vertical tower. The pipes are usually in a compact zig-zag pattern going up. The plants are housed in net cups, placed at regular 90-degree angles.
These systems also use NFT techniques to grow the plants. The water containing essential nutrients is pumped to the top pipe, from where it flows down in a constant stream.
To be continued…
What You Need to Know about Safety
What you need to know about safety
If you have been shopping for LED grow lights, you have probably run across one (or more) of the many certifications out there. So, what do you really need to know about safety and what these certifications actually mean?
It’s a lot of information to take in at once, but for growers, there are a few simple things to understand.
No matter what you grow, you need to know if the LED grow lights you are investing in are safe, durable and perform like the manufacturer claims.
Safety is important when you are planning – or updating – your grow facility, and one of the organizations that certify the safety of grow lights in the United States: UL.
Underwriters Laboratories (or UL) is nationally recognized testing laboratory and, in a nutshell, make sure that the grow lights they certify are safe to use in a horticultural environment.
So, for commercial growers, UL certification is important if you want to stay compliant with OSHA!
That’s because the certification of this organization reassure growers that the products they purchase meet a certain standard of safety.
After all, grow lights can take a lot of abuse: They operate in a humid, wet and often harsh environment. They need to be able to handle it.
And anytime electricity is involved – especially if it is mixed with a wet or moist environment – safety really comes into play. Growers need to be confident that the LED grow lights they purchase will operate as they should in the environment for which they are intended.
The Key Takeaway
For growers looking to invest in LED grow lights, knowing about the different certifications is important, so you know you are:
- Getting the grow light you paid for and that an independent lab has proven the manufacturer’s claims
- You are using a light that has been rated for safety in a horticultural environment – which is crucial to OHSA compliance
Growers should always check the certifications on their indoor grow lights so they know they are buying technology that’s been tested and approved.
Aokairuisi LED grow lights are UL listed, and they are also approved by CE. We are very concerned about the customer’s use experience and safety, if you’re interested in our grow lights, we are happy to share our UL certificate with you. If you’d like to choose one grow light to test, kindly visit here: Shop
What Is the Difference between PPFD and PPF
If you’re looking to understand how grow lights compare, you likely have come across the metrics PPF and PPFD.
However, you might be confused about what these metrics mean, and how you can make sense of them to make an informed purchasing decision. In this article we go over the basic differences between PPF and PPFD.
The difference between PPF and PPFD by definition
PPF and PPFD are both acronyms that deal with the amount of light for a light source or location:
- PPF – photosynthetic photon flux
- PPFD – photosynthetic photon flux density
What exactly is a photosynthetic photon? A photon is a single particle of light, and can take on a variety of wavelengths. Those that are capable of contributing to photosynthesis are considered a photosynthetic photon.
Specifically, this includes photons with wavelengths between 400 nm and 700 nm.
PPF and PPFD measure the quantity of such photons. The critical difference is that PPFD measures the density of these photons falling on a particular surface, while PPF is a measure of the total number of photons released from a light source.
First, the closer to the light source, the higher the PPFD reading. This is due to the dispersion of light as one moves away from the light source.
Second, the center of the beam typically has the highest PPFD reading. As you move farther away from the center, PPFD will decrease.
PPF and PPFD units of measure
- PPF – μmol/s
- PPFD – μmol/s/m2
Both PPF and PPFD measure the total number of photons. This is obviously a very large number, so the unit micromoles (μmol) per second is used. A micromole is equivalent to approximately 6 x 1017. Further, since we are measuring the rate of these photons, this is counted per second.
PPF is simply micromoles per second, but PPFD is micromoles per second per meter squared. This is because we want to know how many photosynthetic photons land on a square meter per second.
When to use PPFD vs when to use PPF
PPFD should always be accompanied by a distance and location. Most manufacturers will publish PPFD data, but be sure that you take into account:
- Distance from the light source
- Location and whether this is averaged over a certain area
Without knowing this information, you cannot meaningfully compare PPFD.
PPFD can be the result of multiple lamps lighting a single area.
PPF, on the other hand, measures the amount of PAR from a single grow light. You can make meaningful comparisons between lamps by comparing its PPF measurement. That being said, be aware that depending on the beam angle, this can affect eventual PPFD readings depending on the products.
Measurement method differences between PPFD vs PPF
Since PPFD is a measure of how much light falls on a surface, even a small, handheld light meter or spectrometer can measure the amount of PAR that falls on a surface. These are typically lower cost and even be connected to smartphones and used in the field.
PPF, on the other hand measures the amount of PAR that is emitted by a single light source, and in all directions. Therefore, slightly more sophisticated instruments are required. Typically a goniosphere or integrating sphere is needed. These devices capture the light emitted in all angles, and then measures the collective light emitted.